Thursday, April 24, 2014

The "Bantu Knots" Hairstyle Throughout The World, Part I

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post is Part I of a two part series on The Bantu Knot hairstyles. This post presents information and comments about and videos of the traditional and contemporary female hairstyle that is now generally known in the United States as "Bantu Knots".

Click for Part II of this post. Part II showcases two music videos that include females wearing the "Bantu Knot" hairstyle and also showcases five tutorial videos of the "Bantu Knot" and "Bantu Knot Out" hairstyles.

The content of this post is presented for cultural, informational, and aesthetic purposes.

DISCLAIMER: I'm not an expert on hair care or hair styling.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks also to those who are quoted in this post.

"Bantu knots also known as Zulu knots are created when the hair is sectioned off and twisted into knots. The shapes of the sections depend on how the hair is parted, and can easily be made into diamond, triangle or square shapes, but the possibilities are endless. This hairstyle can be worn on any hair type and any hair length, although it is popular amongst people of African descent.”
"Bantu Knots" and other referents for that same or similar hairstyles are a hairdo and hair maintenance style for girls and sometimes also female adults throughout much of Africa and the Caribbean. It's possible that the "Bantu Knots" hairdo/hair maintenance style was also worn by African American girls or African American females of any age prior to the late 20th century. However, it appears to me that those hairstyles didn't become relatively well known among African Americans until the natural hair movement of the late 20th century. On a personal note, although I've consistently worn my hair in a natural (an afro) since 1966 and consider myself to be pretty aware of natural styles for Black females, I didn't become aware of "Bantu Knots" until the early 2000s when a young woman who is a close friend of my daughter wore that hairstyle (with her hair dyed brownish blond). My sense then and now is that it takes considerable self-confidence for a Black woman to wear that hairstyle outdoors as (it seems to me) some Black people and non-Black people could equate it with the much maligned "pickaninny"* image of 19th century Black children.*
Even today, it appears that few African American girls and even fewer African American women wear "Bantu Knots" "out" (outside their homes).


The content of a large number of YouTube videos on this subject suggests that most of the small but growing percentage of African American women who wear "Bantu Knots" actually are using that hairstyle to help create curly hairstyles . This hair care maintenance routine is called "Bantu Knot Out". "Bantu Knot Out" is a term for the routine by which Bantu Knots are created in a person's (usually a female's) hair (usually at night before bedtime) and then taken out the next morning or subsequent days later, resulting in naturally curly hair. That hair is then styled and worn outside of the home.

Although I consider myself relatively knowledgeable (for an African American) about traditional African cultures, until I did research for this blog post, I wasn't aware of how widespread the "Bantu Knots" hairstyle is in Africa and in the Caribbean. A list of the African, Caribbean, and United States terms for these hairstyles is found below.

Although "Bantu Knots" can be worn by females with any hair texture (including various textures of "natural", curly, straight, and relaxed (permed, chemically or hot comb straightened hair), it seems to me that that hairstyle wasn't well known or promoted by most Black Americans until the resurgence of the natural hairstyle movement for Black women in the 1990s/early 2000s. My guess is that the name "Bantu Knot" and the less often used name "Nubian Knots" were coined by African Americans during that period of time to refer to those hairstyles. The term "Bantu Knot Out" and "Nubian Knot Out" may have been coined at the same time or close to that time to refer to the "process" of creating those hair styles and then taking those knots out (or down) the next morning or after several days and then styling the resultant curly hair in one of many fashions.

While I believe that the hairstyles known in the United States as "Bantu Knots" and "Nubian Knots" originated in Africa, I don't believe that those names for those hairstyles are of (continental) African origin. Nor do I think that the names "Bantu Knots" or "Nubian Knots" point to a particular population/s or region/s of Africa where those hairstyles were first created. Here's information about the terms "Bantu" and "Nubians":
"Bantu peoples is used as a general label for the 300–600 ethnic groups in Africa who speak Bantu languages.[1] They today inhabit a geographical area stretching east and southward from Central Africa across the African Great Lakes region down to Southern Africa.[1] Bantu is itself a major branch of the Niger-Congo language family spoken by most populations in Sub-Saharan Africa"...
"Nubia is a region along the Nile river, which is located in northern Sudan and southern Egypt". However, among afro-centric African Americans, the term "Nubian princess" has become a complimentary for Black women who are considered to be descendants of people who created various ancient Northeast African kingdoms.

The popularization of the "Bantu Knots" hairstyle can be partly credited to that style being worn by Scary Spice (Mel B.) of the United Kingdom's Pop group "Spice Girls" and the American movie Matrix character Niobe (as portrayed by Jada Pinkett Smith). But I think that the foremost reason for the popularization of "Bantu Knots" and "Bantu Knot Out" are the plethora of YouTube videos & internet offerings about those hairstyles mostly for Black women who are "transitioning" from permed or hot combed (straightened hair). It should be noted that there are YouTube videos that document that White women are also wearing their hair in "Bantu Knots". My sense is that this is a relatively new development.

I know very little information about "Zulu Knots" besides the fact that that term refers to the same or very similar hairstyles as "Bantu Knots" and the Caribbean terms for those hairstyles such as Jamaica's "Chinnie Bumps" and Trinidad's "Pepperseeds". The name "Zulu Knots" implies that those hairstyle are most commonly worn by Zulu girls and/or other Zulu females.

Editorial comments, quotes, and/or links are given for some of these terms following the name of the nation which uses that term.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive listing of referents for these hairstyles. If you know other terms for these hairstyles, please add them in the comment section below. Thanks!

Bantu Knots/Bantu Knot Out - United States

Chiney Bumps (also given as "Chinnie Bumps" and more recently also referred to as "China Bumps" for politically correct reasons) - Jamaica

This term is found on various websites including and subsequent pages of that discussion. This link is hereafter given as (Blackmedia: Chiney Bumps).

simjam, Jul 13 2009 (Blackmedia: Chiney Bumps)
"I dont know why they are called chiney bumps... but My mother used to do this to my hair from when I was a kid, to make my natural hair wavy."

vkb247, Jul 13 2009 (Blackmedia: Chiney Bumps)
"... Chiney bumps = chinese bumps
I know that chinese people wear intricate updos with their traditional dress that are something similar looking

I think that it isn't very pc to say chiney”
This term is also found on ("Get Perfect Curls with China Bump Out aka Bantu Knots")
fran harris, 2012
"Chinnie bump is an old style from the islands. Funny how as a child we hate things only to come right back to them as I've gone back to being natural now for the past 6 months after my big chop, and this style works for me especially when I do double strain twists first, them Chinnie bump it. It looks great. Thanks"

Calabar - Nigeria (a particular form of this hairstyle that is made with a three strand (; Click for information about Calabar, Nigeria.

Cork Screws - Grenada
SummoreShellz , Jul 13 2009 (Blackmedia: Chiney Bumps) "In Grenada we call it Cork Screws lol. When I first heard Bantu Knots I was like.... ummm wah de ass! But a pic clarified it for me."

Cork Screws - Barbados
bajanbabygirl722, 2011 (Bantu Knot Out - Pleasant Surprise)
"In my country we call these corkscrews and my grandmother would do this in order for our hair to dry. Your hair came out really nice"

Cork Screws - Montserrat
From Anonymous February 2, 2016 at 6:20 AM [Read this comment below]

Do Do - Nigeria
Amina Zainab, 2010 (Bantu Knot Out - Pleasant Surprise)
"nigerians call it do do too lol i think it's an African thing"

Duuduub (also written as "dhu-duub", "du-dub" and similarly spelled words) - Somali
This term is found on various websites including (Bantu Knot Out - Pleasant Surprise)
somaliangle, 2010, "@MrKaerf Dhudhub just means to twist! its a quick way of maintaining your hair, most girls do it before bed time so that the hair does not get in to knots and stuff. you just undo it in the mornin and comb."

hibothebibo, 2010 (Bantu Knot Out - Pleasant Surprise) "LOL! My mom is always telling me to duuduub my hair and it really does look good. Somali moms know best!"

ruthrachel18, 2010 (Bantu Knot Out - Pleasant Surprise) "I also have many heritages, touching every continent, reflected in my very thick (!!!) soft, curly hair...Somali and Ethiopian classmates of mine taught me how to duuduub my hair when I was in college, and it works wonderfully, just as it did for you!!! Thank you for sharing"

Janx - Trinidad (Blackmedia: Chiney Bumps)

Nubian Knots - United States, various websites including (Blackmedia: Chiney Bumps)
simjam, Location: Jamaica, Jul 13 2009 "I remeber they startedcalling them nubian knots LOL"

Pepper seeds - Trinidad
GoodKarma4me, Jul 14 2009 (Blackmedia: Chiney Bumps)
“Yea I had to research what bantu knots was at first until I realized I already knew what it was. We call them in Trinidad"

Zulu knots = South Africa [nation], various websites, including
“Now, down to the Bantu knots (also known as Zulu knots amongst other names). There are lots of different ways to do these. The traditional way is with thread and to wrap the hair with thread to plait it and then wrap the hair down on itself to form the knot.” [Visit that site for photographs of "Zulu Knots".]

This concludes Part I of this post.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. WOW,You share with us so many guidelines at your site..great love to see it.. your hairstyle is so gorgeous man..i will apply these styles on my hairs..can imagine so many modern, fun looks with it.thanking you so much...

  2. Very, very informative! Thank you!

  3. Thank you for the information! :)

    1. You're welcome, Iruka Nnakwe.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and post a comment.

  4. Called corkscrew in Montserrat. After washing natural hair putting in corkscrew style while the hair is damp stretches the hair and makes it softer and easier to comb when it dries.

    1. Thanks for sharing that information, Anonymous!

      It's good to hear from a Caribbean sister.

      I wonder if corkscrews were worn in Montserrat out in public in the past for girls, teens, or adult women and if they are worn as a female hairstyle now and not just for hair maintenance?

  5. I started doing this before bed as a kid. No one taught me - I'm a white ginger from straight, blonde-haired parents who had no idea what to do with my kinky red mop. Until I figured out how to do these and micro braids (another thing my sister and I just spontaneously started doing after we noticed wearing french braids for a day resulted in gorgeous waves), I just looked feral. Glad to see it has a history and a plethora of names! Thanks for the education. :)

    1. You're welcome, Anna Willoughby.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences with these hair styes :o)

  6. Here's a link to an online article about Bantu Knots that Lisa Cohen sent to me via email: Bantu Knots Not “Mini Buns” – 25 Superb Ideas on How to Do Bantu Knots

    Thanks, Lisa!